1960s Australian army sleep system - what am I missing?

thejungleisneutral

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Horse blanket? Check. A thin olive drab woolen blanket with tabs and press studs down 3 sides. Did I mention this blanket was really thin?

Silk? Check. A jungle green polyester bag with a press stud closure halfway down one side and a plethora of loops on the inside to accept the tabs on the horse blanket. It's not even remotely waterproof, but I guess it could be windproof.

When it's put together you end up with the silk on the outside of the folded blanket, acting as a cover.

This stuff is way before my time and I've never used it before, or seen it documented anywhere, but it seems like there are components missing - it wouldn't be a very warm sleep system with just the horse blanket and the silk. It's fiddly too.

Anyone got any ideas on how it works or what's missing to make it work?
 

thejungleisneutral

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Some pics of the items in question

IMG_20140617_004300.jpgIMG_20140617_004318[1].jpg

Up until tonight I've been using the "silk" as a sleeping bag liner and it works pretty well to add a couple of degrees to the rating of my sleeping bag.
 

Aussie123

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Just a couple of guesses here, I don’t have any specific knowledge of the setup:

In cold weather, more blankets could be issued ? I remember reading that US troops in WW2 Europe could routinely issued with up to 5 blankets in winter.
I suppose that more blankets would increase the overall warmth, as necessary

Re: The Silk cover – is it actually “silk” ?
“Balloon Silk” (aka “Silk”) is actually a cotton material coated with a waterproof treatment. It was used for waterproof tents, snow tents (arctic/Antarctic expeds), and for outdoor clothing.
Even if your cover is actual silk, it may have had a coating which has since been lost ?
 

thejungleisneutral

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Thanks Aussie.

I think there's enough room that you could add more blankets if required. I have another one here somewhere so I might give it a go.

The "Silk" is a polyester bag, completely uncoated. I have one of the pre-1965 ones as well which looks to be approx. 30D oxford nylon in the same pattern - also completely untreated. The term "silk" came about from a discussion with a Vietnam Veteran a while ago - he used the bag as a standalone jungle sleeping bag on operations and he called it a "Silk". I asked him about the sleep system and he'd never heard of it being used apart from the "Silk". My old man is a Vietnam Infantry Vet and he had no idea - he remembers them and the blankets being issued at Kapooka, but not how they were used. In Vietnam he used an American poncho liner.
 
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barefoot dave

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G'day JGIN.
No mate, that is pretty much it.
The 'silk' is fine spun nylon.
Our Q staff in Cairns had a long running battle to have stocks of 'Winter weight' sleeping bags supplied. "But you're in the tropics!" was the reply.
Meanwhile, those of us on the tablelands froze our butts off, wore all our uniforms in layers or bought our own bags. Usually a combination of all.
When the German army sleeping suits came out, there was quite a run on them.
The only other part of the system, and the most useful, is the 'Mattress, inflatable'. Seen here; http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/REL33881/
I am yet to meet anyone that had more than 1 nights succesful sleep without 1 or more of the inflateable inners going down, and not in a good way;-)
When I was issued mine, I discovered they had all been slashed to save me carrying them on patrol without them being usable!
The real benefit of the 'matress' is one key feature and that is the reason I still carry one, albeit it slightly modified.
Each corner has a reinforced loop for stretcher poles to be passed through.
Mods? Carefully unstitch the seams that create the pockets for the bladders.
You now have;ground sheet or top sheet
, improvised sleeping bag almost as efficient as the horse blanket combo!
Improvised stretcher, with or without poles. I whipped this out the other weekend on a mass casualty Exercise to save our back evacuating the cas.
Emergency gear sac
Instant cam for cacheing
Will even function as a transpiration bag if care is taken in setup. Not as effective as a garbage bag due to the seam holes, but will be better than nothing.
Can be used in conjunction with a garbag. Use the cover as an internal bag on very sharp branches/ leaves to prevent holes in the outer bag.

Beauty of them is a good one can be had for about $15 at a disposals store and weighs about 250gm. I grab one every now and then because they are so good. NSN is correct as per the link above.

Thanks for the (cold and shivery) memories.
 
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thejungleisneutral

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Thanks for the info and for the link BD - I found another listing for the horse blanket/"silk" combo like mine here - http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/REL33884/

So it looks like it was an attempt at a lightweight, purely tropical sleep system rather than a do-all setup suitable for most of the country.

I remember when I was in scouts I used the inflatable mattress cover (unpicked) as a sleeping bag cover for nights under the stars. It was pretty useful. Great info on the use of the cover as a stretcher and other improvised uses. Transpiration bag liner? I wouldn't have thought of that one :) Awesome idea. Might have to go looking for another one and add it to the gear pile.
 

Stewart Townsend

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Pretty sure I was issued 2 blankets, silk, 3 blow ups, ground sheet and hootchie in 1979, Brisbane Ares. I can't think of the correct names, hootchie was SHELTER, INDIVIDUAL. The blankets and silk were useless, I am 6'1" and you wear your boots to bed and it just went to your chest. :( We started to get issued the "summer" sleeping bags they were fair, the Cold weather sleeping bags were pretty good (used them in Singleton in winter) once I got a summer sleeping bag I used it most of the time.
 

rurik

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My blow ups lasted me :) until I opened my mouth and somebody can and "borrowed" them :fanculo: I think that was my fault for shooting my mouth off about it. I ended up cutting a closed cell mat that I found (bright purple)into three and using that for the rest of the exercise. Then not long after that we got OD green closed cell mats issued to us.
 

ninefivefox

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When I arrived at the school of Inf we cut the ends out of the blow ups in order to carry link in them. I used a horse blanket inside a bivi bag on my first trip to Malaysia but as soon as we could "acquire" US poncho liners we binned the horse blankets.

I put a full zip in my poncho liner and that was my summer weight bag for years, now I carry a snugpak jungle bag as well and when it's cooler I shove it inside my poncho liner.
 

DavoAnth

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I have the original complete set up -that is the horse-blanket and silk clipped together as a sleeping system, and tucked into the ground sheet (same one issued with the inflatable tubes). I throw the old issue mozzie net on top, and then roll it all up in the old issue hootchie. For fair weather I ditch the hootchie and mozzie net, and just go with the ground sheet and blanket/silk. It's a pretty rough and ready system, but bombproof. The issue silk gives more room than most of the commercial silk liners these days, trade off is that it definitely not as soft as the store bought ones.

The pic of the complete system (with mobile phone for size comparison) isn't the best - it can roll up a bit more tighter than that.

ground 2.jpgGround1.jpgground3.jpgground4.jpg
 
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thejungleisneutral

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Great post Davo

You're the only other person I know of who uses an issue mozzie net with a hootchie. I reckon it's a great little shelter system, especially if you throw down one of those ww2 rubberised groundsheets and tuck the bottom of the mozzie net under it all way round. I might also test the horse blanket/silk combo with the horse blanket on the outside of the silk. The silk is a great sleeping bag liner -way warmer than an actual silk one.

I picked up an inflatable mattress cover a few days back without the inflatable inserts. I was going to unpick it all, but I think I'll leave it intact and use it as a 3-cell pallaisse by shoving bracken, grass and leaves into the compartments - an update of the old bushman's method of making an insulating sleeping mat.
 

DavoAnth

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Cheers TJIS - I should have thrown in a pic of that rubberised groundsheet as well. I still have one and love it. but it is just too heavy for regular carry. I used to keep the sleeping system / hootchie roll wrapped up in the rubber sheet, but very soon got tired of the bulk and weight. It still comes out if I am car-camping, but most it it's use these days is as a ground cover if I am shooting prone. The mozzie net is fantastic, although mine is getting towards the end of it's life, but I still drag it out separately if I am swag camping as well. The mozzie net/hootchie combo served me well through wet and dry season here, as swell as in the central desert, and I have never had it let me down. Beauty of the hootchie is that you and a mate can just clip them together for a bigger admin area.

I've seen the inner tube groundsheet cover inserts stuffed with dry grass and it looked effective, although I never tried it myself.
 

thejungleisneutral

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Cheers TJIS - I should have thrown in a pic of that rubberised groundsheet as well. I still have one and love it. but it is just too heavy for regular carry. I used to keep the sleeping system / hootchie roll wrapped up in the rubber sheet, but very soon got tired of the bulk and weight. It still comes out if I am car-camping, but most it it's use these days is as a ground cover if I am shooting prone. The mozzie net is fantastic, although mine is getting towards the end of it's life, but I still drag it out separately if I am swag camping as well. The mozzie net/hootchie combo served me well through wet and dry season here, as swell as in the central desert, and I have never had it let me down. Beauty of the hootchie is that you and a mate can just clip them together for a bigger admin area.

I've seen the inner tube groundsheet cover inserts stuffed with dry grass and it looked effective, although I never tried it myself.
Mate, I've got a few issue mozzie nets here, if you want to retire yours, pm me your address and I'll send you a mint one.
 

DavoAnth

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Thanks mate, I will pull it out during the week and give it a good going over to see if it's time is up yet, and will let you know ! Offer is much appreciated !
 

thejungleisneutral

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I put together my sleep system in a different configuration today.

1969 dated "silk" on the inside as a liner
1971 dated horse blanket outside that
Pre-1965 brown oxford nylon "silk" on the outside as a bedroll cover.

Rationale behind using two silks is that the outer one will act as a windproof layer and make the horse blanket more effective. 2 x silks and a horse blanket weighs 1.46kg. Add a WWII ground sheet (240g) and it becomes a total of 1.7kg. Add a hootchie (700g) and it becomes 2.4kg. Add in an issue mozzie net (395g) and it becomes 2.79kg. Add in an issue air mattress cover (348g) and it becomes 3.14kg. Still not too bad for a complete shelter and sleeping system put together using 60s technology. Very compact when used with a couple of compression stuff sacks.

IMG_20140623_130104[1].jpgIMG_20140623_131053[1].jpg
 

oldigger

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I remember this system well! Never had to rely on it in cold weather (fortunately). One the one cool night I spent in the field (at Puckapunyal) we were all issued with one wool blanket to go with the "silk" etc. At all other times, the set up was adequate. In SVN we only used the silk(nylon) outer. It was quite adequate for the Mekong Delta's balmy nights! The use of the rubber mattress in the field was strictly verboten in view of the squeaks whenever a sleeper turned over, so it was just a case of sleeping on the ground. Not that I had much trouble after a long day's jungle bashing. Rigor mortis usually set in as soon as I was horizontal! The black plastic inserts were useful for protecting M60 belts from mud dirt and that was virtually their only use after Long Tan (where mud caused stoppages were a problem).
 

Kindliing

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Dragging up an old thread. Found this pic on eBay.(so nicked it) . 1969 issue listed as "ground sheet hutchie cover"
By the looks of it in the photo,
the same shape flap as the 'silk.' down one side .

looks to be compatible with the wool blanket and liner I have 27148.

First time I've seen it anyway.

Link if anyone's interested.

Is this the ground sheet mentioned in this thread?

 
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